Nightclub fined in deal that allows it to remain open

Velvet Rope to pay $3,500 over fight during concert

March 26, 2010|By Brent Jones | brent.jones@baltsun.com

Baltimore's liquor board levied a $3,500 fine on a downtown nightclub Thursday after its owner pleaded guilty to security breaches that led to a near-riot during a hip-hop concert last month.

Police had publicly petitioned to shut down Velvet Rope after that incident and a shooting that authorities say grew out of a fight inside the club a week later. But Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III and the bar's owner reached an agreement announced at the liquor board hearing, and Velvet Rope will operate under a new security plan and employ valet parking for certain events.

The deal also requires the club's management to actively discourage illegal activity inside or near the business in the 200 block of E. Redwood St. A hearing on 10 minor liquor violations was postponed until May 1.

Asked why police reached an agreement with the club to remain open, department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said: "The bottom line is we're concerned about violence. We're not concerned with putting people out of business, we're concerned with making them safer."

Paul W. Gardner, the club's lawyer, said he was disappointed at the amount of the fine but pleased he was able to reach an agreement with the Police Department.

The liquor board fined the club for a fight that broke out during the Feb. 25 appearance by Southern rapper Yo Gotti and for using Mace to try to control the crowd.

Gardner said Velvet Rope was essentially punished twice for one incident. Liquor board Chairman Stephan Fogleman said in his ruling that the club was being fined for two separate violations - two counts of disorderly conduct - although they happened on the same night.

Velvet Rope opened last summer in the old Mercantile Safe Deposit and Trust Co. building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Gardner said that though Velvet Rope has lost business since the incident, he is "satisfied that the club will remain open."

Police say it took 50 officers, including several from the tactical unit, and assistance from a police helicopter to control the concert crowd.

On March 5, police say, two men who had been involved in a fight inside Velvet Rope were shot and wounded near the Inner Harbor.

The shootings, which police say happened 2 1/2 blocks from the club, were captured by a surveillance camera, and one man was arrested.

The club was not cited by the liquor board for that incident.

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